Meet Chioma, a New York photographer with a minimal aesthetic photography style, and the amazing ability to take captivating images of brown men and women.
Tell us what lead you to photography.
I didn’t take photography seriously until the summer after my first year of college. During my freshman year, I was lucky enough to grow close to a few talented photographers. As a result, I got to sit in on a number of photoshoots. I was intrigued by the process, I was fascinated by the execution, I was impressed by the final product. After watching so many shoots and talking to so many photographers, I wanted to shoot too. When my freshman year ended and we left for vacation, I pulled some money together to buy a Canon. At first I only shot my friends for fun, but over time, my interest developed into a deep love for the craft. I started to love photography because it was a means through which I captured my friends in their most honest and natural states. It was a new way for me to tell my friends that they were beautiful, even if they didn’t see it in the mirror – especially if they didn’t see it in the mirror.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel T5.
Where do you go or what do you do when you need inspiration for your work?
As most others, I often take to Instagram or Tumblr to find inspiration. However, I am also lucky enough to be friends with so many talented photographers who create art that inspires me on a daily basis. The works of photographers such as Samuel Omare (@thesamuelomare), Flo Ngala (@flongala), Mark Aghatise (@mark.aghatise), and Travis Matthews (@a_kid_named_trav), Kwame Freddy (@kwamefreddy) and so many others continuously inspire me to pick up my camera and continue to create.
What are the ingredients for success with photography?
I don’t think I have the ingredients for success. I can only make suggestions based on my personal experience and hope that they work for others. With that being said, I can think of a few things that have helped me to get to where I am currently:
1. Trust in your vision! As a photographer, your product is your vision, in the most literal sense. As a photographer, your skill is bringing your vision to life. If you don’t trust in it, how can you bring it to life? If you don’t trust in it, how can you expect anyone else to trust in it? How can you expect anyone else to trust you? Believe in yourself, invest in yourself, push yourself, and watch how drastically the quality of your work will improve.
2. Figure out what type of photography you’re into and study the different styles and creative processes of other people who are also into the same type of photography. Also study the different styles and creative processes of people who are into different types of photography. Their different styles may give you another lens (haha) through which you can look at and develop your own work.
3. Always give credit where it’s due! There are so many up-and-coming photographers, and it’s easy to feel that your work is being overlooked for someone else’s work. It’s easy to become jealous. It’s easy to begin to speak negatively of your peers. Don’t. Everyone gets their credit, but not everyone will get it at the same time. Learn to be happy for others’ successes. Learn to celebrate with them. Learn to support them. Learn to help them. Learn to be genuine. It goes a long way.
Where would be your dream destination assignment?
My dream destination assignment… Documentary work in Nigeria!
Could you tell us about your favorite project to date?
Back in the summer of 2015, I did a project titled “Project #BlackGirlsEatHealthy.” I was inspired by the conversations I had with several of my black friends throughout my years at my predominantly white, all-girls high school. We discussed the roles that race and socioeconomic class play in the types of food available to POC versus white people. We discussed the fact that in rich, predominantly-white areas, you can often easily find healthy food options, such as organic food restaurants, salad places, and smoothie spots, while in a lot of lower-income, predominantly POC-populated areas, cheap fast food restaurants line the streets. We discussed the implications and stigmas that come with this disparity, such as the idea that eating unhealthy is a standard aspect of the life of every POC rather than a direct result of a failing system. Contrary to this stereotype, there are endless POC living healthy lifestyles and, well, eating healthy. For that reason, I used this project as a platform to put out positive images of POC – particularly black women, as that is the group with which I most identify – eating (and drinking) healthy.
What type of photography do you do the most? And what do you enjoy most and why?
These days, I’ve been doing a whole lot of editorial photography. However, I would have to say that portraiture and documentary photography are the most enjoyable. They bring out the honesty in people. They capture people’s personalities. They show people’s true colors. They’re much less about what you want and much more about who the subject is. They’re real.
What advice would you give to that person who is scared to take the leap and pursue their passion?
I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again: TRUST IN YOUR VISION. If you see something and invest enough time and effort into it, you can bring it to life. Don’t doubt your capabilities – you have what it takes. That’s not to say that you will never be met with challenges because adversity is inevitable, but what you need to understand is that you are capable of overcoming those challenges as long as you stay focused. Go after what you love. Take that risk. You may think that you’re alone, but you’d be surprised to see how many people will run to catch you when you stumble.
What are your long term goals?
I currently intern for SVGE Magazine, an online editorial fashion magazine. I have many long-term goals, but my main one involves SVGE. I want to be of as much help as I can be to my boss, Ayodale Savage, as we continue to work towards the growth of this magazine. I want to have a hand in SVGE blowing up and developing into a household name. I want to see Ayodale reap the fruits of all of her labor over this magazine. She deserves it. Some other long-term goals include one day building a name for myself as a photographer, having my own fully-developed personal studio, and traveling around the world, shooting different people and getting to learn about different places as a result.
Lastly, if we want to follow you and your work where can we find you?
You can find me in a couple places! For one, my Instagram and Tumblr are “foundchichi.” My VFILES account (which doubles as my portfolio) is https://www.vfiles.com/profile/foundchichi/vfiles.